'Breaking Bad,' 'Fargo' & more: How to get away with disposing of TV dead bodies
This post contains spoilers for last night's "Fargo," as well as many notable TV dramas of the last 10-15 years.
As I watched Jesse Plemons' Ed use his butcher shop equipment to chop up, then grind up, the body of local gangster Rye Gerhardt, I realized I had unwittingly become a connoisseur in the art of TV corpse disposal. Not only could I identify a previous show that used a similar method — on "The Sopranos," Christopher and Furio went to Satriale's to chop up Richie Aprile's corpse, though they didn't go so far as to then run him through the meat grinder — but I could compare it to the way previous Plemons-killed characters were done away with. (Ed's method was better than Landry dumping a body in a river, but perhaps less effective than what Walt, Jesse, and Mike had to do to poor Drew Sharp after Todd shot him.) And it also means that I'm much harder on TV characters who don't seem to know what to do with dead bodies. (I'm looking at you, "How to Get Away with Murder" law students.)
People get murdered in very creative ways on TV, and often disposed of in even more creative ways. (On "Bones" alone, they've found victims' remains buried in the strangest of places every week for 10-plus seasons.)
So as I brace myself to never eat ground beef again, I thought I'd look back at some other memorably gruesome but effective TV practices for making sure a dead body not only stays dead, but doesn't get found or identified. These are some of my favorites (and I realize what that phrase says about me); what are yours?
Dissolved in acid ("Breaking Bad")Photo Credit: AMC
Sometimes, it seemed as if Walt and Jesse spent more time getting rid of corpses than they did manufacturing and distributing meth. In fact, the series devoted two of its first three episodes ever to the subject, as the duo had to get rid of two men (one already dead, one soon to be) who had tried to kill them in the pilot. Walt the chemist came up with a seemingly foolproof method — stick the bodies in plastic tubs, then dissolve them in acid — but because Jesse didn't follow all the instructions, the acid melted through the bathtub and floor of his late aunt's house. Eventually, they perfected the approach, so that episodes in later seasons could treat the acid baths as a grimly familiar part of the job.
Entombed in the vacants ("The Wire")Photo Credit: HBO
As cops on "The Wire" liked to note, dead bodies were often the department's biggest motivator for going after drug gangs. So when Marlo Stanfield ascended to power, his top enforcers Chris and Snoop developed an impeccable technique for making the bodies disappear. They would escort their victims into one of West Baltimore's many vacant rowhouses, shoot them, cover the body in quicklime and plastic sheeting to make them harder to identify forensically, then use a nail gun to seal them inside a place no cop would ever think to look. They just didn't count on the investigative genius of one Cool Lester Smooth.
Served to old friends for dinner ("Hannibal")Photo Credit: NBC
On "Hannibal," corpses tended to be put on horrific display, like the man Dr. Lecter turned into a human cello:
But the bad doctor also had an elegant, disgusting method for eliminating all evidence of the trophies he removed from the body of each victim: cooking them up into delicious-looking meals and serving them to his dinner guests, often the very same FBI agents who were searching for the killer they didn't realize was sitting right in front of them.
Taken out to sea ("Dexter")Photo Credit: Showtime
Blood spatter expert by day, serial killer by night, Dexter had a keen understanding of how to hide forensic evidence, and built his murder ritual — which included putting the victim in a room covered in plastic sheeting — around that, before he would chop up the body, bag the parts, and dump them in the middle of the ocean from his boat, the Slice of Life. Things got complicated when law enforcement found his original dump site, but Dexter eventually picked another one.
Folded into a suitcase ("The Americans")Photo Credit: FX
We don't know what ultimately happened to the body of Philip's murdered asset Annelise, but we all got to wince when Philip, Elizabeth, and Annelise's killer Yousaf had to break many of the bones of her naked corpse (with hauntingly loud bone-cracking sound effects) so she could be fit into a suitcase and surreptitiously carried out of the hotel where she died.
Fed to Mr. Wu's pigs ("Deadwood")Photo Credit: HBO
In Deadwood, Al Swearengen liked to keep things simple: if you kill a man, you then drag his body over to Mr. Wu's tent in the camp's Chinatown so Wu's pigs can do the rest of the dirty work.
Dismembered with extreme prejudice ("The Sopranos")Photo Credit: HBO
As Big Pussy — who would himself sleep with the fishes one day — once explained to Christopher, you want to disappear a body so that any of the dead man's allies will have an excuse to not seek revenge. You know he's dead, and they do, but so long as nobody knows where he is, all can just pretend that he's missing and treat it as the high cost of the business they have chosen. So while Tony preferred burials at sea, when he killed capo Ralphie Ciffaretto in a fit of pique, he and Christopher then had to spend the better part of a day chopping him up — including Christopher being horrified to see Ralphie's toupee fall off his severed head — and burying him in a farm upstate.
Buried behind a wall ("Oz")Photo Credit: HBO
For the most part, "Oz" tended to get more creative with the actual methods of murder than with the disposing of the bodies, what with the characters all being in prison. But the murder of Luke Perry's evangelist Jeremiah Cloutier was an ingenious murder and disposal method all in one, as his enemies (who were perhaps fans of Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado") trapped him behind a wall being built as part of prison renovations. (Technically, Cloutier didn't die right then, as he was badly injured in an explosion, then discovered in the aftermath, then buried behind another wall near the end of the series. But the plan was sound.)